Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Plunged in a Gulf of Dark Despair

I read a chapter from a book entitled Coals From the Altar by H.T. Davis last night and he quoted a portion of this hymn. Isaac Watts was the author, but obviously it is one of his lesser-known works. You can find more details at CyberHymal.org

Plunged in a gulf of dark despair
We wretched sinners lay,
Without one cheerful beam of hope,
Or spark of glimmering day.

With pitying eyes the Prince of grace
Beheld our helpless grief;
He saw, and, O amazing love!
He ran to our relief.

Down from the shining seats above
With joyful haste He fled,
Entered the grave in mortal flesh,
And dwelt among the dead.

He spoiled the powers of darkness thus,
And brake our iron chains;
Jesus hath freed our captive souls
From everlasting pains.

In vain the baffled prince of hell
His curs├Ęd projects tries
We that were doomed his endless slaves
Are raised above the skies.

O for this love let rocks and hills
Their lasting silence break,
And all harmonious human tongues
The Savior’s praises speak.

Yes, we will praise Thee, dearest Lord,
Our souls are all on flame;
Hosannah round the spacious earth
To Thine adored Name.

Angels, assist our mighty joys,
Strike all your harps of gold;
But when you raise your highest notes,
His love can ne’er be told.

This Is the Lot of the Good Shepherd

Discovered the Bayly Blog this morning via Twitter.

Please read the full post if you're interested in standing for the clear presentation of Scripture truth.

Here's a summary:
But we never find the Apostles editing their teaching and preaching in such a way that they would cause no offense; we never find them taming things down in the hope that the Church would survive for another generation.

In the radical relativism of the decadent Roman Empire, the Apostles didn’t cop a posture of false humility starting their sentences with “I believe…” or “Don’t you ever find yourself wondering whether…” or “Speaking only for myself….”

When, under the guise of humility and compassion, a pastor avoids confronting the sin of his congregation; when he minces his words; there's little doubt he’ll also avoid the suffering and death of the faithful shepherd. Remember how the Apostle Paul paused his rebuke of the Galatians long enough to ask them so very plaintively, “So have I become your enemy by telling you the truth?”

Faithful pastors devoted to the teaching of the Apostles will correct and rebuke in the same manner the Apostles corrected and rebuked. And for this, they will suffer just as the Apostles suffered—this is the lot of the good shepherd:

Remember the word that I said to you,
‘A slave is not greater than his master.’
If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you;
if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.
~ John 15:20

God’s prophets have never been able to escape persecution when they were faithful to proclaim the message God entrusted to them.

Inflexible, Because God and Conscience Require It

This serves as a good follow up on certainty and humility from several weeks ago.

Jonathan Edwards said:
"A truly humble man is inflexible in nothing but in the cause of his Lord and Master, which is the cause of truth and virtue. In this he is inflexible, because God and conscience require it. But in things of lesser moment, and which do not involve his principles as a follower of Christ, and in things that only concern his own private interests, he is apt to yield to others.

There are various imitations of (humility) that fall short of the reality. Some put on an affected humility. Others have a natural low-spiritedness, and are wanting in manliness of character. … In others, there is a counterfeit kind of humility, wrought by the delusions of Satan: and all of these may be mistaken for true humility."


Friday, March 26, 2010

At Calvary

Years I spent in vanity and pride,
Caring not my Lord was crucified,
Knowing not it was for me He died
On Calvary.

CHORUS:
Mercy there was great, and grace was free;
Pardon there was multiplied to me;
There my burdened soul found liberty,
At Calvary.

By God's Word at last my sin I learned;
Then I trembled at the law I'd spurned,
Till my guilty soul imploring turned
To Calvary.

Now I've giv'n to Jesus everything,
Now I gladly own Him as my King,
Now my raptured soul can only sing
Of Calvary.

Oh, the love that drew salvation's plan!
Oh, the grace that brought it down to man!
Oh, the mighty gulf that God did span
At Calvary!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Not the Season for Snoring

“Some pastors and preachers are lazy and no good. They do not pray; they do not read; they do not search the Scripture…The call is: watch, study, attend to reading. In truth you cannot read too much in Scripture; and what you read cannot be read too carefully, and what you read carefully you cannot understand too well, and what you understand well you cannot teach too well, and what you teach well you cannot live too well…The devil…the world…and our flesh are raging and raving against us. Therefore, dear sirs and brothers, pastors and preachers, pray, read, study, be diligent…This evil, shameful time is not the season for being lazy, for sleeping and snoring.”

-Martin Luther via Passion for Preaching

Monday, March 22, 2010

Do You Know How Dense This Fog Is

"I believe God, that it shall be
even as it was told me" (Acts 27:25)
I went to America some years ago with the captain of a steamer, who was a very devoted Christian. When off the coast of Newfoundland he said to me, "The last time I crossed here, five weeks ago, something happened which revolutionized the whole of my Christian life. We had George Mueller of Bristol on board. I had been on the bridge twenty-four hours and never left it. George Mueller came to me, and said, "Captain I have come to tell you that I must be in Quebec Saturday afternoon." "It is impossible," I said. "Very well, if your ship cannot take me, God will find some other way. I have never broken an engagement for fifty-seven years. Let us go down into the chart-room and pray."

I looked at that man of God, and thought to myself, what lunatic asylum can that man have come from? I never heard of such a thing as this. "Mr. Mueller," I said, "do you know how dense this fog is?" "No," he replied, "my eye is not on the density of the fog, but on the living God, who controls every circumstance of my life."

He knelt down and prayed one of the most simple prayers, and when he had finished I was going to pray; but he put his hand on my shoulder, and told me not to pray. "First, you do not believe He will answer; and second I BELIEVE HE HAS, and there is no need whatever for you to pray about it."

I looked at him, and he said, "Captain, I have known my Lord for fifty-seven years, and there has never been a single day that I have failed to get audience with the King. Get up, Captain and open the door, and you will find the fog gone." I got up, and the fog was indeed gone. On Saturday afternoon, George Mueller was in Quebec for his engagement.
~ Selected

Sweeter as the Days Go By

A classic...that's all I will say! :)

Worthy Pleasures

"The pleasures of loving and obeying, loving and adoring, blessing and praising the Infinite Being, the Best of Beings, the Eternal Jehovah;

the pleasures of trusting in Jesus Christ, in contemplating His beauties, excellencies, and glories; in contemplating His love to mankind and to us, in contemplating His infinite goodness and astonishing loving-kindness;

the pleasures of [the] communion of the Holy Ghost in conversing with God, the maker and governor of the world;

the pleasure that results from the doing of our duty, in acting worthily and excellently;…

these are the pleasures that are worthy of so noble a creature as a man is."

~ Jonathan Edwards via Truth Matters

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Titus in Words

I've been studying Titus recently and stumbled across this web service. It generates a word cloud from a source text. Words that are featured more prominently in the text are proportionately larger in the resulting word cloud. Click for a larger image!

Wordle: Titus

Disclaimer: I am only responsible for your first click. People may use this web service to create images that are less than appropriate! Be warned.

Insignificant Data

Wisdom from R.C. Sproul on the census:
When we are in trouble, when the state is actively abusing us, rather than merely annoying us, and where it yet touts its own procedures, of course we may and should avail ourselves of those procedures. When, however, we are being merely annoyed, wisdom encourages us to go the second mile, to live as much as is possible in peace and quietness with all men. If you want to pick a fight with the state, don’t do it over insignificant data. Don’t do it over how many federal reserve notes they take from us. Do it over something significant.
~ Read the full quote including a scriptural basis for his opinion from Romans 13.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

What a Message Needs

Thoroughly enjoyed Peter Mead's post this morning over on Biblical Preaching. Here's a quick summary--but if you're a student of God's Word who desires to share it with others (expositionally or evangelistically), go read the whole thing!
Perhaps these three principles (from Aristotle, I believe), are too obvious to state. Let me state them anyway:
  1. A message needs unity - that is, a message should be about one thing. If it’s missing then the listeners will supply an imposed unity (often in the form of only remembering your most poignant or amusing illustration)
  2. A message needs order - Often a message that makes total sense in the order of 1, 2, 3, 4, simply does not communicate when it is structured 1, 3, 4, 2.
  3. A message needs progress - It needs to be going somewhere. Without progress the message is about as enjoyable as treading water, in a confined space, with limited air.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Preaching Is Not a One-Hit Job

Peter Mead writes on the Biblical Preaching blog:
What we observe in our own spiritual walks, or in the lives of those around us, is part of what the preacher is called to participate in. Preaching is not a one-hit job. You don’t present a truth and then move on knowing the listeners now have that truth under their belts. You don’t encourage a specific response to God and then look for horizons new in your preaching ministry. The truth is that preaching also needs to tap into the rhythm of patient change, of gracious reinforcement.

Oh, there are crisis moments, but not every Sunday. There are times when a single message will radically transform a life. Pray for that, preach for that, but know that most fruit grows imperceptibly slowly.

The difficulties that come with this ministry are not simple. While God works inaudibly and often below the surface, the preacher works audibly, visibly, obviously and overtly. This opens the preacher up to the challenge of avoiding monotony and sameness while preaching to graciously reinforce the handful of big big ideas that weave their way through Scripture. Patience required implies discouragement faced, and it does come in so many forms – natural and otherwise.

~Read the full post here

Notes

I wrote Sam a note this morning...

And I received one back...

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Sunday, March 7, 2010

In Quest of the Exiles

The theme of this quote reminds me of the fourth verse of His Robes For Mine.
“He spares not His Son, but sends Him in quest of the exiles. He comes into the land of banishment, lies in an exile’s cradle, becomes a banished man for them, lives a banished life, endures an exile’s shame, dies an exile’s death, is buried in an exile’s tomb. He takes our place of banishment that we may take His place of honor and glory in the home of His Father and our Father. Such is the exchange between the exile and the exile’s divine substitute. Though rich, for our sakes He becomes poor. Though at home, He comes into banishment, that we may not be expelled forever.”

~ Horatius Bonar in The Restoration of the Banished via Grace Gems

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Only Ground On Which God Can Forgive

Beware of the pleasant view of the Fatherhood of God: "God is so kind and loving that of course He will forgive us".
That sentiment has no place whatever in the New Testament. The only ground on which God can forgive us is the tremendous tragedy of the Cross of Christ; to put forgiveness on any other ground is unconscious blasphemy. The only ground on which God can forgive sin and reinstate us in His favour is through the Cross of Christ, and in no other way. Forgiveness, which is so easy for us to accept, cost the agony of Calvary.
It is possible to take the forgiveness of sin, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and our sanctification with the simplicity of faith, and to forget at what enormous cost to God it was all made ours.
~ Oswald Chambers via Truth Matters

Friday, March 5, 2010

Fighting and Struggling Against Sin

Is it wise to teach believers that they ought not to think so much of fighting and struggling against sin, but ought rather to "yield themselves to God," and be passive in the hands of Christ? Is this according to the proportion of God's Word? I doubt it.

It is a simple fact that the expression "yield yourselves" is only to be found in one place in the New Testament, as a duty urged upon believers. That place is in the sixth chapter of Romans, and there within six verses the expression occurs five times. (See Romans 6:13-19.) But even there the word will not bear the sense of "placing ourselves passively in the hands of another." Any Greek student can tell us that the sense is rather that of actively "presenting" ourselves for use, employment, and service. (See Romans 12:1.) The expression therefore stands alone. But, on the other hand, it would not be difficult to point out at least twenty-five or thirty distinct passages in the Epistles where believers are plainly taught to use active personal exertion, and are addressed as responsible for doing energetically what Christ would have them do, and are not told to "yield themselves" up as passive agents and sit still, but to arise and work. A holy violence, a conflict, a warfare, a fight, a soldier's life, a wrestling, are spoken of as characteristic of the true Christian. The account of "the armor of God" in the sixth chapter of Ephesians, one might think, settles the question.

But the plain truth is, that men will persist in confounding two things that differ--that is, justification and sanctification. In justification the word to address to man is believe--only believe; in sanctification the word must be "watch, pray, and fight." What God has divided let us not mingle and confuse.

~ J.C. Ryle in Holiness

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Perfection Now?

Ryle continues:
I ask in the third place, whether it is wise to use vague language about perfection, and to press on Christians a standard of holiness, as attainable in this world for which there is no warrant to be shown either in Scripture or experience? I doubt it.

That believers are exhorted to "perfect holiness in the fear of God"--to "go on to perfection"--to "be perfect," no careful reader of his Bible will ever think of denying. (2 Corinthians 7:1; Hebrews 6:1; 2 Corinthians 13:11.) But I have yet to learn that there is a single passage in Scripture which teaches that a literal perfection, a complete and entire freedom from sin, in thought, or word, or deed, is attainable, or has ever been attained, by any child of Adam in this world. A comparative perfection, a perfection in knowledge, an all-around consistency in every relation of life, a through soundness in every point of doctrine--this may be seen occasionally in some of God's believing people. But as to an absolute literal perfection, the most eminent saints of God in every age have always been the very last to lay claim to it! On the contrary they have always had the deepest sense of their own utter unworthiness and imperfection. The more spiritual light they have enjoyed the more they have seen their own countless defects and shortcomings. The more grace they have had the more they been "clothed with humility." (1 Peter 5:5.)

What saint can be named in God's Word, of whose life many details are recorded, who was literally and absolutely perfect? Which of them all, when writing about himself, ever talks of feeling free from imperfection? On the contrary, men like David, and St. Paul, and St. John, declare in the strongest language that they feel in their own hearts weakness and sin. The holiest men of modern times have always been remarkable for deep humility. Have we ever seen holier men then the martyred John Bradford, or Hooker, or Usher, or Baxter, or Rutherford, or M'Cheyne? Yet no one can read the writings and letters of these men without seeing that they felt themselves "debtors to mercy and grace" every day, and the very last thing they ever laid claim to was perfection!

In face of such facts as these I must protest against the language used in many quarters, in these last days, about perfection. I must think that those who use it either know very little of the nature of sin, or the attributes of God, or of their own hearts, or of the Bible, or of the meaning of words.

When a man can talk coolly of the possibility of "living without sin" while in the body, and can actually say that he has "never had an evil thought for three months," I can only say that in my opinion he is a very ignorant Christian! I protest against such teaching as this. It not only does no good, but does immense harm. It disgusts and alienates from religion far-seeing men of the world, who know it is incorrect and untrue. It depresses some of the best of God's children, who feel they never can attain to "perfection" of this kind. It puffs up many weak brethren, who fancy they are something when they are nothing. In short, it is a dangerous delusion.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Practical Exhortations to Holiness

J.C. Ryle poses a second question:
I ask, in the second place, whether it is wise to make so little as some appear to do, comparatively, of the many practical exhortations to holiness in daily life which are to be found in the Sermon on the Mount, and in the latter part of most of St. Paul's epistles? Is it according to the proportion of God's Word? I doubt it.

That a life of daily self-consecration and daily communion with God should be aimed at by everyone who professes to be a believer --that we should strive to attain the habit of going to the Lord Jesus Christ with everything we find a burden, whether great or small, and casting it upon Him--all this, I repeat, no well-taught child of God will dream of disputing. But surely the New Testament teaches us that we want something more then generalities about holy living, which often pierce no conscience and give no offence.

The details and particular ingredients of which holiness is composed in daily life, ought to be fully set forth and pressed on believers by all who profess to handle the subject. True holiness does not consist merely of believing and feeling, but of doing and bearing, and a practical exhibition of active and passive grace. Our tongues, our tempers, our natural passions and inclinations-- our conduct as parents and children, masters and servants, husbands and wives, rulers and subjects--our dress, our employment of time, our behavior in business, our demeanor in sickness and health, in riches and poverty--all, all these are matters which are fully treated by inspired writers.

They are not content with a general statement of what we should believe and feel, and how we are to have the roots of holiness planted in our hearts. They dig down lower. They go into particulars. They specify minutely what a holy man ought to do an be in his own family, and by his own fireside, if he abides in Christ.

True holiness, we surely ought to remember, does not consist merely of inward sensations and impressions. It is something of "the image of Christ." which can be seen and observed by others in our private life, and habits, and character, and doings. ( Romans 8:29.)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Holiness--By Faith Only?

J.C. Ryle poses seven questions in the introduction to Holiness. He begins by questioning the assertion that holiness is by faith:
I ask, in the first place, whether it is wise to speak of faith as the one thing needful, and the only thing required, as many seem to do now-a-days in handling the doctrine of sanctification? -Is it wise to proclaim in so bald, naked, and unqualified a way as many do, that holiness of converted people is by faith only, and not at all by personal exertion? Is it according to the proportion of God's Word? I doubt it.

That faith in Christ is the root of all holiness--that the first step towards a holy life is to believe on Christ--that until we believe we have not a jot of holiness--that union with Christ by faith is the secret of both beginning to be holy and continuing holy--that the life that we live in the flesh we must live by the faith of the Son of God--that faith purifies the heart-- that faith is the victory that overcomes the world--that by faith the elders obtained a good report--all these are truths which no well-instructed Christian will ever think of denying. But surely the Scriptures teach us that in following holiness the true Christian needs personal exertion and work as well as faith. The very same Apostle who says in one place, "The life that I live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God," says in another place, "I fight--I run--I keep under my body;" and in other places, "Let us cleanse ourselves--let us labor, let us lay aside every weight." ( Galatians 2:20; 1 Corinthians 9:26; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Hebrews 4:11; Hebrews 12:1.) Moreover, the Scriptures nowhere teach us that faith sanctifies us in the same sense, and in the same manner, that faith justifies us! Justifying faith is a grace that "works not," but simply trusts, rests, and leans on Christ. ( Romans 4:5.) Sanctifying faith is a grace of which the very life is action: it "works by love," and, like a main-spring, moves the whole inward man. ( Galatians 5:6.) After all, the precise phrase "sanctified by faith" is only found once in the New Testament. The Lord Jesus said to Saul, "I send you, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith that is in Me." Yet even there I agree with Alford that "by faith" belongs to the whole sentence, and must not be tied to the word "sanctified." The true sense is, "that by faith in Me they may receive forgiveness of sins and inheritance among those who are sanctified." (Compare Acts 26:18 with Acts 20:32.)

As to the phrase "holiness of faith," I find it nowhere in the New Testament. Without controversy, in the matter of our justification before God, faith in Christ is the one thing needful. All that simply believe are justified. Righteousness is imputed "to him that works not but believes." ( Romans 4:5.) It is thoroughly Scriptural and right to say "faith alone justifies." But it is not equally Scriptural and right to say "faith alone sanctifies." The saying requires very large qualification. Let one fact suffice. We are frequently told that a man is "justified by faith without the works of the law," by St. Paul. But not once are we told that we are "sanctified by faith without the deeds of the law." On the contrary, we are expressly told by St. James that the faith whereby we are visibly and demonstratively justified before man, is a faith which "if it has not works is dead, being alone." * ( James 2:17.) I may be told, in reply, that no one of course means to disparage "works" as an essential part of a holy life. It would be well, however, to make this more plain then many seem to make it in these days.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Doctrine Is Useless If Not Accompanied By a Holy Life

I'm preparing to preach on the book of Titus. In doing so, I've been reminded of the importance of holiness in our lives as believers. Titus was living on the ungodliest of islands--but Paul makes no excuses for the Christian's behavior. Rather he teaches and then affirms that sound doctrine must be accompanied by godly living. In short, what we believe should affect how we behave.

I'm reading J.C. Ryle's volume entitled Holiness. I'll be sharing excerpts from it over the next while. He writes in the introduction:
I have had a deep conviction for many years that practical holiness and entire self-consecration to God are not sufficiently attended to by modern Christians in this country. Politics, or controversy, or party-spirit, or worldliness, have eaten out the heart of lively piety in too many of us.

The subject of personal godliness has fallen sadly into the background. The standard of living has become painfully low in many quarters. The immense importance of "adorning the doctrine of God our Savior" ( Titus 2:10), and making it lovely and beautiful by our daily habits and tempers, has been far too much overlooked. Worldly people sometimes complain with reason that "religious" persons, so-called, are not so amiable and unselfish and good-natured as others who make no profession of religion.

Yet sanctification, in its place and proportion, is quite as important as justification. Sound Protestant and Evangelical doctrine is useless if it is not accompanied by a holy life. It is worse then useless; it does positive harm. It is despised by keen-sighted and shrewd men of the world, as an unreal and hollow thing, and brings religion into contempt. It is my firm impression that we want a thorough revival about Scriptural holiness, and I am deeply thankful that attention is being directed to the point.